Matt Berkey and Nik Airball got into what could be called a brawl (by poker standards) ahead of their much-anticipated $200/$400 heads-up match.
For those who haven’t been following the latest poker drama, Berkey and Airball have been going back-and-forth online over the last two weeks. The latter took umbrage to comments made by Berkey about his play on Hustler Casino Live and a challenge was issued.
Negotiations for the $200/$400 heads-up match were far from smooth. In fact, they were so rough that Phil Galfond was drafted in to oversee the process. The pair eventually agreed terms, but the war of words turned into a physical altercation when they crossed paths at the Bellagio over the weekend.
Bellagio brawl between Matt Berkey and Nik Airball
Whether it was set up in order to create hype around the match or there really is bad blood between the two, Berkey and Airball were caught on video squaring up to each other. As you can see from the video below, words were exchanged, Airball led with a push, and Berkey stood his ground.
Idk how MMA scoring works but I committed to arbitrating so I'm gonna call this one 1.5 points for Berkey?pic.twitter.com/Ig8s1QO85v
— Phil Galfond (@PhilGalfond) March 31, 2023
In the real world, few would describe it as a fight. However, in poker, where physicality isn’t a prerequisite for success, the dust up between Berkey and Airball was high drama. Indeed, the tongue-in-cheek tweet from Galfond has been viewed more than 600,000 times, so, fight or not, it got people’s attention.
The good news is that Berkey and Airball are now locked in a $200/$400 No Limit Hold’em heads-up battle at the Bellagio. There have been two sessions so far and, while the players themselves are keeping low profiles, others are offering snippets of information.
Players swinging and secret phone calls
Poker pro Landon Tice provided an update on Sunday night, saying that Berkey was up $220,000 at one point but Airball mounted a comeback after some “secret meetings and phone calls.” Despite rallying on Day 2, investment banker Nik Airball is still down $133,500 to poker pro Berkey.
I would say "#nevermissasunday but if either of them missed a sunday it would be a 10k penalty.
I will inform on the latest updates received.
Secret Meeting Counter: 1
Current Total: Matt +133.5k
— Landon (@LandonTice) April 2, 2023
We also know Airball was down more than $400,000 at one point, according to Doug Polk’s recent round-up on YouTube (see video below). The swings Airball has experienced so far have certainly been more damaging than anything we saw during the “brawl at the Bellagio.”
That’s a positive because this is poker, it’s not mixed martial arts or boxing. The fact Matt Berkey and Nik Airball are battling at a poker table means we’ve got plenty of high-stakes action to look forward to.
Indeed, with a little bit of animosity between the two bubbling under the surface, we can expect more massive pots over the coming weeks.